Private Utilities Need Incentives, Loans, CEO Says

Speaking before a conference of the Mid-Atlantic Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Hershey, Pa., Nicholas DeBenedictis, Aqua America, Inc. chair and chief executive officer, said that private water utilities can play a large and beneficial role in addressing the deteriorating state of the nation’s water infrastructure.

According to a company press release, DeBenedictis cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate of $335 billion needed for repairs and replacement of transmission pipes, storage and treatment equipment, and other projects required to protect public health and to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

“Aqua America has been addressing the aging water infrastructure situation for decades,” he said. “We have the ‘shovel-ready’ projects that EPA cites as necessary to ensure SDWA compliance.” Aqua America spent $1.2 billion on water quality and infrastructure projects during the five-year period 2004 through 2008. “Progressive regulatory programs like the Distribution System Improvement Charge in Pennsylvania and the Quality Infrastructure Project Surcharge in Illinois promote the continuation of these important investments,” said DeBenedictis.

Regulatory policies that provide incentives for reinvestment in infrastructure coupled with access to capital markets, including low-interest loans (tax-exempt and state revolving loan funds), have helped Aqua America maintain a low cost of debt capital (below 5.5 percent). Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc., Aqua America’s largest operating subsidiary, currently has an A+ corporate credit rating from Standard & Poors.

Aqua America, Inc. is a publicly traded water and wastewater utility holding company with operating subsidiaries serving approximately 3 million people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Maine, Missouri, and South Carolina.

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